curated by Adam Fitzgerald

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Man on the Dump

Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up.
The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche
Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho ... The dump is full
Of images. Days pass like papers from a press.
The bouquets come here in the papers. So the sun,
And so the moon, both come, and the janitor’s poems
Of every day, the wrapper on the can of pears,
The cat in the paper-bag, the corset, the box
From Esthonia: the tiger chest, for tea.
The freshness of night has been fresh a long time.
The freshness of morning, the blowing of day, one says
That it puffs as Cornelius Nepos reads, it puffs
More than, less than or it puffs like this or that.
The green smacks in the eye, the dew in the green
Smacks like fresh water in a can, like the sea
On a cocoanut—how many men have copied dew
For buttons, how many women have covered themselves
With dew, dew dresses, stones and chains of dew, heads
Of the floweriest flowers dewed with the dewiest dew.
One grows to hate these things except on the dump.

Now, in the time of spring (azaleas, trilliums,
Myrtle, viburnums, daffodils, blue phlox),
Between that disgust and this, between the things
That are on the dump (azaleas and so on)
And those that will be (azaleas and so on),
One feels the purifying change. One rejects
The trash.

That’s the moment when the moon creeps up
To the bubbling of bassoons. That’s the time
One looks at the elephant-colorings of tires.
Everything is shed; and the moon comes up as the moon
(All its images are in the dump) and you see
As a man (not like an image of a man),
You see the moon rise in the empty sky.

One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.
That’s what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow’s voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,
Pack the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear
Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher’s honeymoon, one finds
On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,
Bottles, pots, shoes and grass and murmur aptest eve:
Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
Invisible priest; is it to eject, to pull
The day to pieces and cry stanza my stone?
Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.

by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Phoenix and the Turtle

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou shrieking harbinger,
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever's end,
To this troop come thou not near!

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather'd king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender makest
With the breath thou givest and takest,
'Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they loved, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
'Twixt the turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix' sight;
Either was the other's mine.

Property was thus appalled,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature's double name
Neither two nor one was called.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together,
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded,

That it cried, How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none,
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supremes and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene.


Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclosed in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix' nest
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

by William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Friday, January 29, 2010

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

by John Keats (1795–1821)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Forsaken Garden

In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,
       At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee,
Walled round with rocks as an inland island,
       The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.
A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses
       The steep square slope of the blossomless bed
Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses
               Now lie dead.

The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
       To the low last edge of the long lone land.
If a step should sound or a word be spoken,
       Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?
So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless,
       Through branches and briars if a man make way,
He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless
               Night and day.

The dense hard passage is blind and stifled
       That crawls by a track none turn to climb
To the strait waste place that the years have rifled
       Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time.
The thorns he spares when the rose is taken;
       The rocks are left when he wastes the plain.
The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken,
               These remain.

Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not;
       As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry;
From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
       Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.
Over the meadows that blossom and wither
       Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
Only the sun and the rain come hither
               All year long.

The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels
       One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath.
Only the wind here hovers and revels
       In a round where life seems barren as death.
Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,
       Haply, of lovers none ever will know,
Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping
               Years ago.

Heart handfast in heart as they stood, "Look thither,"
       Did he whisper? "look forth from the flowers to the sea;
For the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither,
       And men that love lightly may die—but we?"
And the same wind sang and the same waves whitened,
       And or ever the garden's last petals were shed,
In the lips that had whispered, the eyes that had lightened,
               Love was dead.

Or they loved their life through, and then went whither?
       And were one to the end—but what end who knows?
Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither,
       As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose.
Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them?
       What love was ever as deep as a grave?
They are loveless now as the grass above them
               Or the wave.

All are at one now, roses and lovers,
       Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea.
Not a breath of the time that has been hovers
       In the air now soft with a summer to be.
Not a breath shall there sweeten the seasons hereafter
       Of the flowers or the lovers that laugh now or weep,
When as they that are free now of weeping and laughter
               We shall sleep.

Here death may deal not again for ever;
       Here change may come not till all change end.
From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,
       Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.
Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing,
       While the sun and the rain live, these shall be;
Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing
               Roll the sea.

Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
       Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
       The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
       Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
               Death lies dead.

by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)